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McDonald’s, covid-19, gun violence, African American youth


CEO and President of Griggs Enterprise, Roy Griggs, at The Times Sports Awards

Shreveport Times

McDonald’s franchise owner Roy Griggs, CEO and president of Griggs Enterprise, Inc., carved a path to success one restaurant at a time. He encourages young African Americans to use their talents to build their future.

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Roy Griggs owns several McDonald’s in Shreveport, he spoke with The Times about his philanthropy work and what’s he’s faced during the pandemic.  (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times)

The owner of 14 McDonald’s — 10 in Louisiana and four in East Texas — Griggs, like everyone else, finds himself in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic having to re-adjust the way he runs his restaurants to meet federal and state COVID-19 safety guidelines.

“We are now drive-through only,” Griggs said. “Our dining rooms have been closed. We are doing safety efficiency practices even more so than what we were doing. McDonald’s has always been known for its cleanliness. We’ve now gone above and beyond and have instituted more with sanitizing equipment throughout the day.”

Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, about 30% of his restaurant business was dine-in and about 70% was takeout, so of course, the shutdown had a financial impact.

It was spring when the government shut everything down with the hope of reducing the spread of the coronavirus. With that, life as most Americans knew it, changed and so did the economy. 

“When we closed down our lobby we lost about 25 percent of the business initially, but over a period of the last six or seven months we’ve gained almost all of that back,” Griggs said. “We’re not back 100 percent but we’re probably about 95 percent back. We’re doing extremely well considering the challenges of COVID.”

Born in Meridian, Mississippi, Griggs started down the path to success as a McDonald’s employee following high school graduation in 1971. Three years after that he was manager, becoming the fast-food restaurant’s first Black manager in Meridian, according to a Times story published in 2015.

Once he hit the 16 years mark as a McDonald’s employee, Griggs sought to become an owner/operator. He opened his first restaurant in 1989 and within eight years had three franchises in Alabama.

A relocation brought Griggs to Shreveport in 1997, where he added to the number of franchises he now owns.

Griggs is a member of the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association (NBMOA), a 47-year old organization dedicated to ensuring that African American McDonald’s owners are fully engaged in all of the benefits associated with McDonald’s restaurants.

The organization’s focus these days is staying relevant and figuring out how to engage the next generation in McDonald’s franchise ownership.

Griggs’ best guess as to the number of African American McDonald’s owners is about 19 to 20%.

Shreveport philanthropy

Also, like others around the world who witnessed George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, Griggs was moved to action.

“So much has been going on with COVID-19 and the unrest with the shooting of Black males and the death of George Floyd that caused unrest across the country, so, I thought about Shreveport and that something like that could happen here,” Griggs said. “If that (bystander) had not had that cell phone, we may never have known what happened.”

Griggs said there are a lot of good police officers in Shreveport but there also may be some that may need monitoring.

“There was no money allocated (in the City of Shreveport’s budget) for police body cameras,” Griggs said. “I thought to myself, those officers really need body cameras so that we know exactly what happened if anything were to happen here. I thought that was something I could do as a citizen and as a business owner.”

To make it happen, Griggs founded “Concerned Business People of Shreveport.” The group raised the $200,000 needed to purchase body-worn cameras for the Shreveport Police Department (SPD) officers.

Discussions on Shreveport’s racial divide and how to build trust between SPD and the African American community also needs to happen, Griggs added.

Shreveport’s gun violence has a lot of people trying to figure out how to stop it.

“We need to sit down and talk,” Griggs said, adding it goes back to early education but that some parents may not have the time they should have.

As a business owner who hires young people to work in his restaurants, it’s an opportunity for Griggs to inspire and sometimes mentor his young employees.

“If there’s no hope, there’s no future,” Griggs said. “We have to try to give them hope because there are so many young men that are being killed every day. I work with a lot of teenagers and see a lot of talent. We have to find a way to reach out to those young men. There are so many great programs out there working with our youth, but we have to do more. We have to really try and sit down to figure this problem out. It bothers me that almost every night there’s a shooting.”

As a young man, Griggs thought initially that he would be a preacher.

“I knew there was a calling on my life,” Griggs said. “It was not until I opened the restaurant that I thought, ‘In a way, I guess I am minister because I come in contact with so many young folks.’”

Griggs added that it’s not church ministry but a ministry of sorts, something he sees as an opportunity to encourage his young employees and set examples.

For those young African American males who may have lost hope for a future and are not sure what path to take, Griggs said, “Look within and try to discover who you are and what your gifts are for this life. The Bible tells us we all have at least one. Discover what your passion is. It’s that one thing that you do that is almost effortless, that’s your gift. Utilize that to start your business and then do more. Know that you’re not just here to just live and die.”

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